- Creating a long document isn't quite the same as creating a short document like a letter, memo or flyer. By their very nature, long documents usually include quite a bit of text which needs to be presented in a logical or predefined order. While this might not be a big deal if you know exactly what the document will contain before you sit down to write it, how often is that the case? If you're like me, you'll be working on one section of a document and realize that there's something important you left out in an earlier part.
That's the beauty of word-processing. It allows non-linear document creation. You can even write the end of your document before the beginning and no-one who reads the final version will ever know. Sometimes the documents you create for work might require a structured format that dictates how information must be presented. For example, years ago in my first job out of college, I used to write audit reports for the New York City Controller's Office. Each report was 20 to 30 pages long and had three main parts, a three to four page management summary that summarized the report's findings, a lengthy report body that provided details of what the audit team actually found, and a two to three page list of recommendations or action items.
Although the structured format was often quite repetitive, it was required. Legibility is an important consideration when creating a long document. I'm not just talking about choosing the right font and font size for the document so it's clear and easy to see, I'm talking about formatting the document so that it's easier to read. Unless you're writing a novel, you'll likely want to include white space to help break up long blocks of text. Headings are very useful, not only to create those breaks, but to give the reader a quick way to see what's coming up next in the document and, as you'll see in this course, headings can also help you structure your documents during the writing phase.
Other kinds of formatting can also make a long document easier to read. For example, bulleted lists can break long lists of information into digestible chunks. Numbered lists can clearly present steps in a process. Tables can organize related information in a way that makes data easy to compare, and you know what they say about pictures being worth a thousand words, right? Many long documents include charts, illustrations, figures or photographs. Of course, if you're going to include tables and figures in a long document, you'll likely want to identify them with captions.
Some long documents might need footnotes or endnotes to present additional information that's not important enough to include in the main text of the document. Footnotes and endnotes could also include references that cite other documents so readers can learn more from a different source. If you have citations, you'll likely want to list them in a bibliography at the end of the document. You can help readers find information within a document in a number of ways. Cross-references help readers backtrack or move forward through a document to find information you referred to in another place.
Very long structured documents could probably benefit with a table of contents that lists headings and the pages they appear on. An index is another tool readers can use to find content in a document. Of course, all of these tools rely on accurate page numbering. If you edit a document after you create these references, the page numbers may need to be changed. As for page identification, nothing beats a good header and footer for providing important information about the document on every page.
This might include the document or section name, a revision date, an author name, or a confidentiality notice. At the very minimum, it should include a page number so that readers trying to use the table of contents or index can find the page they're looking for. As you can see, a long document can be a lot more than just a bunch of text. It also includes features that benefit the reader and make the document text easier to read, understand, and refer to. Fortunately, Word's got you covered.
Its feature set includes many tools designed specifically for creating and publishing long documents.
- Understanding challenges with long documents
- Exploring the process for building a long document
- Structuring a document with outlines and master pages
- Adding captions
- Working with footnotes and endnotes
- Inserting citations and managing sources
- Creating an index with a concordance file
- Numbering chapters and pages
- Formatting page breaks
- Including headers and footers
- Adding a cover page
- Setting the document theme
- Updating automatically generated content
- Formatting long-document components
- Printing a long document